Political turmoil is a ‘cancer’ on US society, says Chicago archbishop

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Bishop of Spokane, Blase Cupich, welcomes Fast for Families on March 6, 2013, during an evening community meeting at Gonzaga University.

Photo courtesy of Fast 4 Families via Flickr

Bishop of Spokane, Blase Cupich, welcomes Fast for Families on March 6, 2013, during an evening community meeting at Gonzaga University.

Following the general audience with Pope Francis in Rome on Sept. 2, 2015, the Holy Father met with members of the board of governors of Catholic Extension, including Archbishop Blase Cupich. Photo by Rich Kalonick

Following his general audience in Rome on Sept. 2, 2015, Pope Francis met with members of the board of governors of Catholic Extension, including Archbishop Blase Cupich. Photo by Rich Kalonick

(RNS) The morning after a Chicago rally for Donald Trump was canceled for fear of violence, the city’s Catholic archbishop warned that “enmity and animosity” are hallmarks of today’s politics and a “cancer” that is threatening the nation’s civic health.

“Our nation seems to have lost a sense of the importance of cultivating friendships as fellow citizens who, being equal, share much in common,” Archbishop Blase Cupich said in a homily Saturday (March 12) at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago.

“Instead, our politics and public discourse are often marked by enmity and animosity,” he said.

His remarks were delivered to a packed congregation that included numerous state and city political and civic leaders, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.


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“There is an overly competitive character that defines how we relate to one another, emphasizing what divides us rather than what we share in common,” Cupich said. “And because we do not value growing together, a cancer is developing that threatens to harm us all. Positions harden, progress is stalled, and it is becoming clear that the body politic is nearing the limits of how much suffering it can endure.”

The evening before Cupich’s homily, Trump — the leading Republican presidential candidate whose fiery rhetoric has been paired with physical confrontations at his appearances — canceled a rally at the University of Illinois’ arena in downtown Chicago over security concerns.

Clashes did, in fact, break out between Trump’s supporters, who have gained a reputation for intimidating tactics, and Trump opponents, who have increasingly showed up at the candidate’s rallies to challenge him.

Cupich’s homily also came days before the next round of presidential primaries on Tuesday, when Illinois will be one of several states with large delegate shares. Trump is currently leading in most polls, and it appears that he has the support of many Catholics, as he did in Michigan.


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Cupich did not mention Trump or any of the candidates by name.

His homily reflected both his own long-standing focus on promoting greater civility in the church and in public life and the growing concerns among many religious leaders that the ugly tenor of this year’s historic campaign, particularly in the especially fierce Republican contest, could pose serious dangers to the nation’s social fabric.

Cupich also sought to highlight the underlying conditions that have created the deep resentment that some politicians are now exploiting.

He took as his frame of reference the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland — the reason he was at the historic, 170-year-old St. Patrick’s to celebrate Mass — a rebellion against British rule that left 2,000 casualties and marked a turning point in the bloody struggle for Irish independence.

That rebellion, the archbishop said, stemmed from the exclusion of Irish Catholics and their treatment as “sub-human” and “lower class.”

“Social cohesion wore thin in a system corrupted by inequality, favoring the powerful and wealthy, their self-promotion and preservation to the exclusion of the weak and voiceless,” Cupich said. “The result: many people lost hope, solidarity vanished, hearts hardened and society ended up becoming infected by a cancer that harmed all.”

He quoted the famous lines in “Easter 1916” by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who wrote:

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.

Focusing on the common good, and not “favoring some over others, including some and excluding others,” was the way forward, Cupich said.


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He pointed to the experience of the Irish and other immigrants in Chicago as a model for the “restoration” of civic life, to the day’s readings from the Prophet Isaiah as an inspiration for that future, and to Pope Francis’ focus on mercy as the path for Catholics in particular.

Otherwise, he said, “When the common good of all is not the aim of society’s growth, whether that be in the economy, education, civil rights or civic participation, a cancer grows that damages the whole social body.”

(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)

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  • Re: “Cupich also sought to highlight the underlying conditions that have created the deep resentment that some politicians are now exploiting.”

    Some of that resentment was stirred up by US bishops. They’ve fallen in with the Religious Right movement, and over the last 10-15 years have actively promoted the R.R.’s fierce political Christianism. 57 R.C. hierarchs, for example, signed on to the Christocratic “Manhattan Declaration.” Of late, particularly terrifying to the poor bishops has been the prospect of Catholic florists and bakers having to sell flowers and cakes to those insolent, reprobate gays.

    It’s all well and good that Culpich decried this partisan toxicity, but maybe he should talk to his own fellow members of the USCCB and tell them to grow the heck up and dial back their Christianism already.

  • Ben in oakland

    One’s man’s cancer on society is another mans religion.

    How much better off would our society be if the religious would stop trying to force their purely theological concerns on people who don’t share them by means of the secular law which governs all of us.

    Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one. And use your considerable time, money, and resources to provide alternatives to abortion in stead of forcing those purely theological concerns on people who don’t share them.

    Don’t lke birth control as an aspect of general health care? fine. Don’t use it yourself. But don’t forbid it to others and then complain about abortion rates being as high as they are.

    Don’t like gay marriage? Fine. But stop pretending that your particular and peculiar version of God cares about civil law. How many billions were spent on that? Good for the economy, bad for everyone else.

  • Fran

    That’s human politics for you, which neither Jesus, his disciples, apostles and first-century Christians got involved with (nor wars).

  • Ben in oakland

    I guess there is not a single mirror anywhere in the archbishops’s mansion.

  • Actually it was Jesus, the Fullness of the Godhead who, not directly but through the armies of Babylon and Rome, destroyed and made Desolate Jerusalem, not once but twice.

    Romans 11:22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

  • Leon

    This message has been going on in the US for a long time now and the Trump campaign has made its perception very easy for some to see.The questions are who is really behind it all?

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  • Ted

    Religions have been a cancer on human societies everywhere for centuries, not just in the US.

  • Fran

    Donald,

    It was Almighty God (Yahweh or Jehovah; Psalm 83:18), who allowed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E., as well as by the Romans in 70 C.E.

    It was Jesus (or Yeshua), the son of God (Matthew 3:17), who advised of returning the sword to its place, because those who use the sword will perish by it (Matthew 26:52).

    Instead, Jesus promoted love of God, his Father, with our complete whole heart, soul and mind as the greatest command, followed by loving our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:37-39).

  • patrick

    @ Fran

    Let’s look at Jesus’ words in Matt 10:34 – 35

    34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
    35 For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

    Please reconcile….

  • Fran

    Patrick,

    Jesus was only confirming the fact at Matthew 10:34,35 that not everyone in the family arrangement would accept the truths that he taught, and that family members would even become one’s own enemies (verse 36). He also confirmed at verse 37 that whoever had greater affection for a family member than for him was not worthy of him.

    As Jesus so aptly said,”Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much and inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29).

    He also mentioned that whoever does the will of his Father who is in the heavens is his brother and sister and mother (Matthew 12:50).

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  • patrick

    It’s all crrr@ppp anyway Fran. Get a life and move on.